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In SEO’s never-ending evolution, algorithms are continually assessing different elements to determine where brands rank.
I remember the time, “back in the day,” when you could often get ahead with only rudimentary SEO tactics like keywords stuffing, e-zine posting, and even article spinning.
Oh, but how things have changed…
Search engines have never been more sophisticated, and Google is relentless in its pursuits of providing users with the best experience possible.
One element of SEO in particular that’s garnered a lot of attention recently is brand signals.
What are brand signals?
In a 2011 post on Moz, Rand Fishkin explained that
Google wanted to separate the ‘brands’ that produce happy searchers and customers from the ‘generics’ – sites they’ve often classified as ‘thin affiliate’ or poor user experiences.
Long story short, brand signals are cues that show:
- Your brand exists
- You’re a credible brand
- You’re a trustworthy brand
In other words, brand signals prove to Google that you’re legit—you’re not merely a “generic” charlatan.
The way I see it, building brand signals is fast becoming an important way to establish trust with Google and increase your exposure in search engines.
On top of this, effectively building brand signals should also have a positive impact on your overall brand equity.
I also predict that the companies who skimp in this area will be at a major disadvantage in the very near future.
How does Google decide whether you’re a brand?
I think the best way to answer this question is to look at this chart Moz created:
On the left hand side, you can see which factors cause Google to view your business, website, blog, etc. as a “brand.”
On the right hand side, you can see which factors will result in it being viewed as “generic.”
Needless to say, you want Google to consider you as a “brand” and not “generic.”
Even though this chart is a little outdated (it’s from early 2011), it definitely offers some valuable criteria to guide our efforts in building brand signals.
In one of my posts on The Content Marketing Institute website, I also pointed out some of the main categories that comprise brand signals:
- Mentions on the web (e.g., references to your brand on big-name publications)
- Verifiable identity (e.g., business incorporation listings and comprehensive contact information)
- Activity on social accounts
- User queries (e.g., a high volume of people searching for your brand on Google)
How can you build brand signals for SEO?
Now that we know how Google determines whether or not you’re a brand, let’s discuss how to build brand signals for SEO value.
More specifically, I’d like to explain how to do it in a hurry.
Here are some techniques that have worked for me and should work for you as well.
Create a comprehensive About page
As Moz clearly indicates, Google wants to know your brand actually exists.
Therefore, it’s important you beef up your About page and include plenty of details.
You’ll notice on the About page of Quick Sprout that I’m pretty comprehensive in explaining my background. I leave no stone unturned.
While you don’t have to go to this length, this should serve as a good template to guide you.
What’s another thing that Google is looking for? Whether or not you have a physical address.
Let’s be honest. It’s easy for any snake oil salesman to create a website and claim that they’re an authority in their industry.
But Google wants to know that you’re a legitimate brand and genuinely adding value. That’s why it typically gives preferential treatment to businesses with an actual office address and a physical presence.
So, be sure to include this information as well.
Be active on top social networks
Do I really need to even say that having a social media presence is important?
I’m sure you already know this.
But if you needed yet another reason to be active on social media, building brand signals is it.
Besides the direct traffic it brings and the SEO juice that comes from its signals, social media also plays a direct role in whether or not Google deems your business as a brand.
I would say the networks you’ll most definitely want to be active on are:
- Twitter (ideally, as a verified account)
Google+ is optional, considering it’s pretty much a digital graveyard these days. But if you’re feeling frisky, creating a Google+ account should be beneficial as well. After all, it is Google’s social network.
If you’ve got the time, I also recommend creating an account on YouTube.
Besides the fact that it’s owned by Google, it can really be advantageous from a branding standpoint.
It’s also incredibly popular and should help you penetrate your market more effectively.
And there’s one other trick I think will help you build brand signals through social media even quicker.
That’s to have your employees create profiles on these networks and link back to your company’s profile.
For LinkedIn, make sure that they explicitly state they work for your company.
Doing so shows Google that you DO have employees working for you, which makes it more likely that it’ll identify you as an actual brand.
Be active on relevant niche platforms
Another strategy for quickly gaining traction is to sign up on “niche platforms,” which are basically sites geared toward a specific industry.
For instance, a lawyer would want to be on Avvo, and a real estate agent would want to be on Zillow.
You get the idea.
This should send the right message to Google and get it to take notice.
Sign up for review sites
I also suggest taking advantage of sites such as:
- Google Places
- Angie’s List
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
Google Places in particular should serve as a great brand signal.
Consistently create high-quality visual content
Okay, so this probably sounds like a no-brainer. And it is.
I’m not going to drone on about the impact a well-run content marketing campaign can have, but consistently distributing high quality content throughout the right mediums will help your SEO on many levels, including building brand signals.
But for maximum impact, visual content is the way to go.
…brand signals aren’t just about mentions. They are about mentions that people see, recognize and identify. Brand signals are for users, not algorithms.
Visuals not only help you connect with your audience in a memorable way but also expedite your brand signal building efforts considerably.
That’s because visual content tends to receive a lot of shares and has the potential to go viral.
In fact, “content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.”
Infographics in particular are a great medium to utilize.
Just look at how popular they have become in recent years:
This graph illustrates the spike in searches for the term “infographics” over the past decade.
Guest-post on authority sites
I mentioned before in another post that
as other websites mention your own, your brand gains credibility through cocitation.
That’s why my final suggestion for building brand signals for SEO is to guest-post on relevant highly respected and authoritative sites within your industry.
For example, I make it a point to contribute to sites such as:
- The Content Marketing Institute
They all have to do with business, marketing, and entrepreneurship and have helped me create tremendous leverage.
Of course, the specific sites you target will depend upon your unique industry/niche.
Just go after the big boys that receive a high volume of traffic and are well-respected.
You can learn more on the process I use for guest-posting in this guide.
To maximize your impact even more, use branded anchor text (where your brand name is included in the hyperlink) when linking back to your site.
Just make sure it looks natural—not like you’re deliberately trying to stuff your brand name into your hyperlinks(s).
Although the concept of brand signals is a fairly new one, it’s something you’ll definitely want to have on your radar moving forward.
If you haven’t already made a concerted effort to ensure that Google views your business as “a brand,” it’s definitely time to get on board.
Fortunately, building brand signals for SEO isn’t rocket science. And it actually revolves around several techniques most brands are already implementing in some capacity.
It’s just a matter of understanding what Google is looking for and structuring your branding strategy accordingly.
By following this formula, you can kill two birds with one stone.
First, you can appease search engines so that your brand’s content ranks consistently higher.
Second, you can establish a tighter relationship with your audience and boost your overall brand equity.
What kinds of things is your business doing to build brand signals?